ORIGINALLY WRITTEN TOM STOPPEL
Success comes almost naturally to some people, and Tabor College’s Tamara McCarren happens to be one of those fortunate few.
The powerful senior track and field star currently holds the Bluejay record for the discus (148 feet, 6 inches) and the hammer (133-7) and on three occasions, she has come within one-half inch of breaking the school’s shot put record (40-10).
McCarren has also thrown the javelin with some success.
But for all the power and strength necessary to attain such records, McCarren remains grounded in her accomplishments.
“I ask God sometimes why I’ve been given this ability,” McCarren said. “It’s kind of amazing to think that I’ve broken records.”
Success is no stranger to McCarren.
Since moving to Clifton before entering the sixth grade, McCarren has stood out in track and field. She took up the sport after Clifton-Clyde didn’t offer her first love: softball.
“My dad convinced me to try track because I could throw really well,” McCarren said. “I started off with a bang and it’s just something that’s been a lot of fun ever since.”
McCarren’s success in high school included a Class 2A state championship in the discus as a sophomore and state titles as a senior in the discus and shot put.
McCarren still remembers the words of wisdom she received from her her high school history teacher, Ken McClannahan.
“He told me not to throw for my dad, my team or my family, but to throw for myself and God,” she said. “For a public school teacher to say that was really something.”
But McCarren’s path to Tabor was a signature away from never happening.
“After my junior year in high school, I got something in the mail from Tabor,” she said. “I had always wanted to go to a Christian college.
“But I had a lot of offers from schools like Fort Hays State, Pittsburgh State and even Kansas State-and they offered me a lot of money,” she added. “My dad originally didn’t want me to come to Tabor, so I was planning to go to FHSU.
“But on the day I was supposed to sign a letter of intent with FHSU, a woman who had taught at Tabor for eight years came into my parents store and told them what a great place Tabor was and convinced my parents Tabor was a good school,” she said. “To this day, I’m not really sure who that lady was, but I’m really thankful for her.”
So is Tabor track coach Dave Kroeker.
“Tamara is a special athlete because she’s improved consistently in all four years she’s been here,” Kroeker said. “She’s very sincere about everything she does, and she’s capitalized on her gifts.”
McCarren comes into this season as the top point producer for the women’s team in each of her first three years with the program.
But that hasn’t been unusual for McCarren.
“I was used to earning a lot of points when I was in high school, so scoring here isn’t a huge surprise,” she said. “I guess my high school program and the Tabor program were a lot alike, so that was what held some of the appeal for me and Tabor, too.
“One of my goals has always been to score 38 to 40 points in a single meet but to do that, I’d have to win just about everything,” she added with a smile. “But in the whole scope of things it’s not how many points I score, it’s how I throw.”
How she throws depends on two things, according to McCarren. Technique and confidence.
“Just being able to step into the ring and being confident that you can be powerful is the biggest thing,” she said. “We’re all still learning. Even Olympic throwers are in the process of learning as they’re coming on, so we’re all in the same situation.
“Sometimes we learn and we win together, and sometimes we don’t win, but it’s still a team effort.”
Kroeker is guiding her through the learning process, and McCarren said she appreciates his assistance and knowledge.
“Coach is a great guy and he brings a lot of fun to the track,” she said.
“We laugh at each other all the time. But when we get serious and down to business, some great things have happened and are continuing to happen.”
Kroeker admitted the duo has had its share of laughs.
“She’s watched me fall over demonstrating things and I’ve chuckled at her when she’s fallen over,” he said. “Driving back and forth to nationals the past couple of years and stopping and eating, we’ve had a lot of laughs.”
Qualifying for nationals has become commonplace for McCarren the past two seasons, but that elusive next step is still on her radar.
“You have to finish in the top eight to be an All-American and I missed out by two-tenths of a meter,” she said. “I’ve been close-but-not-quite, so I’d like to do that. It would be fun.”
But even if her goal is never realized, McCarren can find solace accomplishing her primary goal.
“I just want to improve,” she said. “My goal is to finish better than I did last season.
“It’s just been a blessing to have the opportunity to throw,” she added. “That’s the most joyous part of track.”
McCarren said although her eligibility in track will conclude after this year, she hopes to contribute to Tabor athletics in another venue.
“I’ll be around another school year and I hope to play soccer and help coach track,” she said.
Until then, McCarren looks forward to challenging her opponents and the school record book.
“Tabor gives everyone an opportunity for success,” she said. “Tabor supports everyone in everything they do and I think that’s one of the most amazing things a college can offer.”
Kroeker said it’ll be hard to replace McCarren.
“From a team standpoint, she’s been very consistent scoring points and that’ll be hard to replace,” he said. “But from a personal standpoint, I’ll miss her ability to help others when I’m not around.”
“I hope people remember me in track for my success, but I really want people to remember that I showed good sportsmanship, and the values and who I am in Christ was reflected in every throw if it was good or bad,” McCarren said.
“I want people to remember that I competed and loved the sport and Tabor College, but more than anything, I want to be remembered as someone who loved God.”